Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

Quotation attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.

When we arrive at the Connections Club on a Thursday morning we, the volunteers, are never quite sure what Karen will have pre-programmed to stimulate our minds and challenge our cognitive behavior! However Karen will thoroughly brief  us before the participants arrive and often attempt a dress rehearsal. Being prepared is critical to the success of the program. I know I have said this before but Memory Matters goes to considerable lengths to train volunteers such as this correspondent.

Sometimes it is hard to find precisely the right words to describe a happening at Memory Matters. Take the 10am morning arrival as an example. What I do know is that the arrival of our participants, or Club Members as they regard themselves, is a fun time. It’s a  meeting of friends, many of whom have been regular members of the Club for a long time and the key moment in time when the Caregivers hand over their loved ones to our care. It’s a responsibility we take very seriously and I always discern an elevated air of excitement and a positive charge shared by everyone present.

The quotation I have shared above is therefore appropriate. “Do what is necessary” is simple but vital comprehensive preparatory advice. Then “doing what’s possible” is the challenge because we want to stretch our Club Members brains and send them home with something useful to employ in everyday life. To reach the impossible dream or a least to “do the impossible”!

So last Thursday Karen introduced “Chunking” which is one strategy that can be used to improve a person’s short-term memory. It involves reducing long strings of information that can be difficult to remember down into shorter, more manageable chunks.

We started with these spoken words: orange juice, toothpaste, apple, cheese, milk, ice cream, dish soap, chicken, tomato and guess what (?)  I cannot remember the last word! But we were shown how to use “chunking” and pull words together in groups. E.g milk, cheese and ice cream are dairy products and toothpaste and dish soap are household products. Fish (my forgotten word a moment ago) and chicken can be recalled as main course food.

Even though we enjoyed other pursuits during the day (music, singing, trivia, a few jokes, and therapy dogs) we kept working on our chunking skills, and by the day’s end, most of the Club Members were able to take home the basic skill to test when they shop with their family. Doing the impossible became something to be proud of, and this volunteer was really proud of  their effort and accomplishment.

I could not finish this post without writing of a riddle quiz that we held just after the lunch hour socialization. It was one of those better riddle quizzes that cause you to really focus on the words and think laterally. There were only ten questions and it became a ladies versus gentlemen competition. The men were winning handsomely but as the quiz master I gave the ladies the opportunity to “press” and tie the score with the last question. They did! Honor was even.

The Club Members love friendly completion, and my goodness they really are very competitive, so it was a lot of fun. My point in telling this story is that the “Chunking” exercise seemingly heightened their concentration and they were really on top of their game on Thursday.

Doing the impossible is possible.

I will leave you with another famous quotation

Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.
― Mother Teresa


Please share this if you believe it could help someone.

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